Finding a Rhyme and a Reason

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Mississippi and the Nation Honor Medgar Evers as His Wife Recounts His Sacrifice

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In the summer of 1963, I was 6 years old. My world was quite small and as insulated as possible living in Athens, Georgia. I know that it did not extend very far. We were only allowed to play in our own yard. Just three houses up the street lived some cousins of ours, but the few times we got to play with Ralph Pruitt, he had to come to our house. The hedges, that lined the sidewalk in the front of the house my mother, aunt, siblings, and I shared with my grandmother, were as far as we could venture in the front.

The backyard, on the other hand, boarded by a creek, had its treasures, especially in the summer. Strawberries, blackberries, honeysuckles and plum trees as well as other treasures to attract lizards, garden spiders, firelies, and frogs. It was the place of countless games of hide-and-go seek, jump-rope, dodge ball, and scientific wonders. I will always remember the day my brother was chased into the house by a praying mantis who decided to retaliate against his captor when he was released from a Jiffy Peanut Butter jar. But I don’t remember the day Medgar Evers was killed. It saddens me a liitle because I know that there are those – his wife, his children and others – who can’t forget the sounds and the images of the night he was gunned down in his own yard.

I heard an account from one of Evers’ daughters recently on NPR who said that she and her siblings had practiced the drill so often – if shots rang out they were to grab their baby brother and hide in the bath tub and wait. But Evers’ young daughter, after securing her baby brother in the tub, went into the yard and found her father mortally wounded. For their family, there was no insulation. That summer, as I anticipated entering first grade with my twin brother, evil crossed the barrier of the Evers’ yard and left a stain. For them, hiding was not a choice and it certainly wasn’t a game.

Now fifty years later, it is time for us to ensure that this family’s sacrifice, like so many others in the summer of 1963, is honored and remembered by more than a few. If you do not know this man’s story, or if you have not shared it with someone you cherish, consider acquainting yourself with his work and his legacy. You can talk about him in your classrooms, your playgrounds, your places of worship, and even in your own backyard.

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